FCC Seeks The Publics Comments On Digital TV Switch

August 2, 2007

This week belongs to the Federal Communications Commission, FCC. For the first time FCC wants to open it´s doors to the public, regarding digital TV. FCC seeks comments from everyone who cares on the proposed DTV education initiatives for the transition to DTV. Ad to that FCC member Adelstien´s call for a DTV transition task-force during yesterdays ACA meeting in Monterey. Last but not least – FCCs vote on the auction of spectrum in the 700-megahertz band.

I think FCC goes out of it´s way to listen to the audience, stakeholders and everyone involved or engaged in the transition -while there is time. Or is FCC seeking to refine it´s own role in the transition?

Here is what FCC is looking for better understanding of:

The NPRM seeks comment on proposals to help convey the timing, logistics and benefits of the DTV transition to consumers, including:
• Broadcaster Public Service Announcements, other Consumer Education Requirements, and Reporting
• Notices in Cable, Satellite, and other MVPD Bills
• Notices from Consumer Electronics Manufacturers
• Employee Training by Consumer Electronics Retailers
• Adjustments to the DTV.gov Partners Program

This can be viewed as the most critical parts for the moment of the U.S DTV transition. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this is a great effort but very formal. Why don´t FCC invite stakeholders, NABs TV Coalition and everyone else to a physical meeting in D.C. Use technology to have a real interactive and engaged meeting to listen in to everyone’s ideas and proposals to make the transition successful and deliver the comments that FCC asks for?

The second thing that comes to my mind is the question if this is what FCC wants to have more knowledge about – isn´t this very much the same that NAB and the DTV Coalition is preparing to launch?

The third thing is that nothing is mentioned about information campaigns as such and budgets. Two fundamental parts of the transition.

Another concern that may be important is that the DTV information campaigns will run during a election year. Usually it might be hard to compete with the audiences attention when political ads and news events are taking place.

From experiences made in Germany, U.K and Sweden suggests that much of the work in the beginning of the process leading up to transitions, was focused on getting the stakeholders and the industry to work together. In Sweden it took about a year to get the stakeholders to agree and work together on unified messages, campaigning efforts as well as shared budgets. In UK there is a huge organization working with different parts of the transition since a couple of years back. They have even sorted out what might happen with all the litter, old TV-sets and how to take care of it all.

A year ago I visited NAB, FCC and stakeholders in D.C. When asked if there was or would be some kind of a hub that would manage the U.S transition – everyone tilted their heads, had a short silent look at me and said: “Well you know United States doesn´t work like that”. I guess one proof of that is FCC now seeking to refine its role in the transition as such.

Anders Bjers


DTV Stats vs Medias Attention

July 9, 2007

Many consumers in the US do not know anyting about the upcoming transition to DTV and its implications for them. The vast majority is totaly unaware. I read Dean Takahashi´s TechTalk in San José Mercury News with great interest. I love to pick up the paper every morning from our driveway and take a first sniff of the soft and fresh morning air in Menlo Park. Dean wrote an article about the DTV transition the other day. I enjoyed it mostly because he put together the basic statistics of transition. Here are some of the stats that Dean gathered.

About 60 percent of the consumers do not know anything att all about the transition today. About 20 million households are affected by the transition with an antenna as primary reciever of TV-signals. Another 14.6 million households have secondary TV-sets that are also affected. All in all around 70 million TV-sets need a converterbox to function properly, but no one really knows for sure how many TV-sets that are analog today. About 92 percent of broadcasters are transmitting both analog and digital TV as of today.

In comparison, Digital Media Europe reports that 38 percent of the viewers in the UK are not aware of the DTV transition and approximately 26 million TV sets are analog only today. And only 7 percent is aware of when the actual transition will take place in their region. I think the US has an easier task communicating the transition. Since its the same day for the whole country. But the common knowledge about the transition in the US is way to low right now. How do you bring that up? One thing that really matters is medias attention. UK media has covered the transition for a long time. and not only from a technical perspective. I think medias focus on technical aspects of digital television to often overshadows the consumers little interest in technology.

There is a widespread confusion about DTV – digital TV and HDTV. Most of the people I have met thinks this is all about HDTV. I think that is unique for the transition in the US compared to european countries. In Europe HDTV is not that common. Its starting to take of on platforms like satellite and cable but it is mostly for premium content. In that way it is easier to conduct a transition to digital TV in Europe since the improvement is a bigger bang for the TV viewer and you dont have to be dealing with another confusing acronym. Even if the US is in the early hours of the operations preparing for the actual transition, I am astonished about how poorly mainstream media is covering digital TV or ways of recieving TV. Tech media knows much about the subject but I still miss discussions about antennas, converterboxes and how to deal with reception for apartmentbuildings or buildings with central antenna. That are issues that needs more attention and more time to manage to be prepared in time for the transition date.

Anders Bjers

Will NABs Digital TV tour bring awareness?

June 19, 2007

Later this year NAB will launch a campaign to educate viewers about the transition to digital TV. This is reported by Broadcast Engineering among others. With less than two yeas to go and no converterboxes in stores it is a tuff challenge to educate people about a transition that hardly no one is aware about. I think it will take some really smart moves to get peoples attention in this context. Here is what I think:

1. Plan a massive local media awareness that focuses the local meetings on the tour. People will learn more via local media reports than in any other way.

2. Come up with something that attracts both local media and the local audience to show up and take part. Anything from local TV-stars to BIG local News. The transition seames to be a national event and it is. But for the audience its a hyper local event. And keep it that way. But support it with national news. This will drive the local interest, awareness and knowledge about the transition.

3. Let people see the difference between analog TV and digital. Bring boxes and let people touch and feel. Let them try for themselves to connect a box to a TV-set, with or without a vcr, dvd or Tivo.

4. Hand out printed sheets with pictures and how-to guides to help people connect the boxes.

5. Try to let boxes out in stores in time for the tour!

6. Boost the marketing of all the local TV-stations that allready broadcast digital TV (see NABs list). If people can start using boxes and TV sets before the actual transition date it takes a lot of pressure from the actual transition on Feb 17 2009. And word will spread. Try to make one or a few areas to be pilots. This will create word of mouth and awareness.

7. Support everything that creates Word of Mouth about digital TV. Get people to talk about the transition. What it is. What is needed to be done, What will TV look like with digital reception. Who is affected. Who is NOT affected. Were to get more information. If people talk, even if it is a bit negative or questioning it still builds awareness.

And a last thing but not the least. Launch a positive brand that dont focus on the transition as a technical step but a increased service and experience for the consumer.

The transition is not rocket-science, it is a very practical step to get better TV.

Anders Bjers

PS If the US DTV-campaign colour is pink – NAB has been inspired of both Sweden and the U K. Both countries choose that colour as a base for their DTV campaigns. Not aware of each other but surprised. DS.